Do’s and Don’ts for Disagreeing With a Coworker

When you’re working closely with other people, sooner or later you’re going to have a disagreement.  Each of us bring our own motivations, opinions, experiences and styles to the workplace so it only makes sense that sometimes they will clash.   Disagreeing with a coworker is not a problem, it only becomes a problem when conflicts are not handled properly.  Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you ensure that you deal with workplace conflicts professionally:

1.  Do address the problem with your coworker respectfully and privately.  Most people appreciate it if you come to them directly with a concern.  Find a place where you can speak to your coworker alone and be polite and professional in the conversation.

2.  Don’t gossip about your coworker with other people.  Nothing makes people feel more attacked than having people talk about them.  How do you feel when you know that people are gossiping about you?  Don’t put your coworker in that position.  Speak to the person involved and then keep your mouth shut.

3.  Don’t escalate the problem to your manager until you’ve exhausted all other options.  Don’t be the person who goes running to their manager about every single conflict.  This behaviour will annoy your manager and alienate your coworkers.  Make every effort to address the conflict with your coworker.  If the two of you are not able to find a solution and you feel that the issue is important, only then should you talk to your manager.

4.  Do explain to your coworker why you disagree with them and offer alternative solutions.  When you talk to your coworker, do your best to make them understand exactly why you disagree with their approach.  Without placing blame, explain your position to them and give examples.  Offer them alternative solutions to the problem.

5,  Do listen to your coworker.  When you’re explaining your point of view to your coworker, there is a good chance that they will also want to provide theirs; take the time to listen to it.  Be open and genuinely consider their perspective.  Perhaps you disagree with your coworker because you don’t completely understand their point of view.

6.  Don’t take on every fight; choose your battles carefully.  Have you ever worked with someone who is always in one fight or another?  Did you avoid that person?  You aren’t always going to agree with your coworkers, but not every issue is worth a conflict.  In some cases, it is better just to ignore the situation and recognize that it’s not worth the trouble.

Workplace conflicts are not easy.  They can make you feel uncomfortable and they can potentially impact the way that you are viewed by your manager and your coworkers.  However, if you always remain professional and treat your coworkers with consideration, you should be able to navigate through any conflict with ease.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/


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